The Illuminated Myth of Mzona by Richard of Kédange (1802-1879). Part III

Heavenly Zo / INRI becomes ISO / Swabian and Lorraine Somnambulism

Heavenly Zo

Richard’s emblematic sexual symbolism originated in the theurgic Neoplatonic geometry of Alexandrian late antiquity and had found its way from there into Jewish mysticism and Hermeticism. The most famous example was the Seal of Solomon, the hexagram, which consisted in the interpenetration of two oppositional triangles, being the union of heaven and earth, of the male and female principle. The latter was represented in Pierre’s system by the versal V, V for bifurcation and binarity, the inverted V or also A represented the celestial influx. N indicated the interconnection. Z could have meant an energetic lightning bolt, the insemination by the cosmic sator Arepo, and the power of the sun.

Zo and Zos it was flashing all over the place in Pierre’s books. The syllable with the alphabetic final letter at the beginning also played a prominent role in other modern magic books. William Blake’s myth, loosely based on Ezekiel’s vision, revolved around the Zoa, the four elemental animals or basic energies of man. A few decades later, in the 1840s, within the context of mesmeristic healing practices, “Zoism” became briefly popular, a term deriving from the Greek “zoe” for life that stood for the existence of an all-pervading subtle fluid.[1]  The sigil-magical Zos cult of the English artist and ritual magician Austin Osman Spare was at the beginning of the 20th century still based on such vitalistic ideas.

Strasbourg and Metz had been centres of mesmeristic activities in pre-revolutionary France, which were organised in so-called Societies of Universal Harmony.  It seems thus more than likely that Pierre came into contact with mesmeristic views and their astral-magical interpretations. In the strains of Masonic Martinism, Mesmer’s teachings of astral-animal magnetism had entered into a series of adventurous connections with Jewish, Catholic and Pietist mysticisms, which were closely linked to ritual magic.  The symbolism of Pierre Richard’s charm books could be an indication that the Gnostic programme of Martinism, whose theurgically focused parent order of the Élus Coëns was also organised in Metz until its dissolution in the 1780s, had gradually spread to the lower reaches of popular magic.

However, the sonorous name of the primordial magician Zoroaster could also have played a role in Pierre’s preference for the awe-inspiring prefix Zo, and certainly the Zodiac, which in his magical vocabulary merged with the German word “Sonne” (sun) to form “Zona”. “Zona” may have represented the masculine dimension of the Sator Arepo mechanism, “Mona” the feminine aspects. The conjunction generated the inflationary term “Mzona”. “Mzona” might stand for the paradisiacal fields, for the wide net of Peter, the infinite Rosarium, the androgynous shelter in which Richard experienced his rebirth as 8ichardora.[2]

Pierre Richard’s pages were full of allusions to the agrarian dimension of the hermetic acts of Zona and Mona. Z-versals turned into plough-like sigils, followed in their furrows by the seeds o. Letters were always also image and symbol. Graphemes in the form of scythes, flails, saws and carts were also involved in the preparation of the eschatological field of Mzona. All acted as transmitters of the great work of transformation. The ear of corn was a major attribute of many of his characters, symbol of the resurrection, but also sign of the great biblical harvest, of the eschatological sifting and of the grinding. Richard’s agrarian symbolism had striking parallels with Blake’s pictorial poetry, not only in terms of frequency and apocalyptic content, but also in its self-referential connotation, the tilling of the graphic field.

In the growth of the plants, Pierre Richard must also have found a reflection of his ideal of chaste fertility, as well as in the flight of the bees, which, as messengers of asexual reproduction, were traditionally assigned to the Holy Virgin and in this function they also appeared in his opus. By a seduced Eve, man had been cast out of such a state of purity and only by a pure Eve he could get back. Mzona, as the initial revealed, was under the protection of Mary. Mzona was her domain, for she carried the chaste seed within her, the zon (son) or rather in the androgynous, non-binary identity that merged with the mother: the zona.

INRI becomes ISO

Several signs referred to the androgynous transformation the aspirant had to undergo in order to blossom as a soul-seed in Mzona, first of all the S-shaped serpent symbolism. M stood for the heavenly woman promised in the Revelation of John, who would appear at the end of time with the moon under her feet within a ring of twelve stars and give birth in the wilderness to the treader of the serpent under the threat of the old Serpent.[3]  The archangel Michael, whom Pierre invoked permanently in his books, would stand by her in this battle. The sickle-like and s-shaped appendage on many of the M-versals would allude to this scene.  However, the attributive form seemed to point to yet another connection between the serpent and Mary that was even more profound and went beyond this apocalyptic threat.

The Serpent played a prominent role in Richard’s grimoires. The drawing of a python on a cross in Album 1 disclosed that he must have been familiar with the Hermetic myth of the serpent transformation and the concept of Christ as a transformed python. It was essentially based on the Old Testament tale of the brazen serpent that Moses had presented to his people as an antidote to the deadly consequences of unbelief. The most famous depictions of serpent transformations were found in the spagyric treatise “R. Abrahami Eleazaris Uraltes Chymisches Werk “.[4]  Richard may have been familiar with this widely used work. Besides the divisions and conflations of the python, strange subjects like the preparation of the two virginal earths Arez and Marez and the collection and distillation of the dew, the medium of the heavenly seed, played a leading role in it. But also the pictorial appendix of this pseudo-Jewish, anti-Semitic script, in which other well-known hermetic motifs such as the three-fold rose bush, the Sol and Luna twins and Mercurius with the caduceus could be found, demonstrated how close Richard’s grimoires had built to the symbolism of spagyric.

Are we to imagine the Lorraine magician as a practitioner of iatrochemistry, who gathered the dew (Zo) in cloths at dawn, like the alchemists in the “Mutus Liber”, in order to marry it with the virgin earth (Marez or Mzona) to an all-healing elixir?[5]  ISO, the inscription on the serpent above the INRI cross, at least, spoke for such a spagyric-naturopathic context. Had the King of the Jews (INRI: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum) transformed himself into an Iatros? The corresponding mantra in the accompanying text ran: iso.serpen.iso.

Two diagrammatic graphics, in which ISO marked the wheel and INRI the spokes, seemed to apply this medical context to the rotations of Sator: Healing transformation (ISO) though suffering (INRI). (Fig.) That Richard was on this track of transformation and may have considered himself a medicine man was suggested by the open 8 he prefixed to most of the variations of his name. An early version of this strange initial in his Enchiridion implies that it might have been an abstracted Caduceus or Aesculapian emblem, the trademark of the physician who is harmonising the opposites.

Swabian and Lorraine somnambulism

The contemporary case of the Swabian somnambulist and clairvoyant Friedricke Hauffe shows how closely magical writing could be tied to healing practices. Born in 1801 in the Swabian village of Prevorst near Ludwigsburg, the forester’s daughter had been admitted after long psychotic episodes with visions and prophecies to the home of the mesmerist physician and poet Justinus Kerner, who documented her medical history in detail. With the two-volume work with the telling title “Die Seherin von Prevorst. Eröffnungen über das innere Leben des Menschen, und über das Hereinragen einer Geisterwelt in die unsre”, published in 1829 immediately after her early death, we now have a fascinating para-psycho-pathological case study avant lettre, which, long before the art of the mentally ill became accessible, dealt empathetically with the patient’s state-bound utterances and artefacts, in Hauffe’s case with her so-called inner language and writing.[6]

Kerner dealt in detail with her psychographic production and reproduced several examples of her magical signs, which, she said, through the agency of the soul, were capable of expressing the language of the spirits. “She could not give a complete ABC of this language (…) often a single letter is also a whole word at the same time.” This inner language had been very melodious, and she had also remained “completely consistent in her expressions for what she wanted to say in it”, “so that people who were around her for a longer time gradually learned to understand her. She often said that she could fully express her innermost feelings in this language, and that if she wanted to say something in German, she first had to translate it from this her inner language.”[7]  Kerner gave some examples of such translations. For example, doctor meant “handacadi” and “O pasqua non ti bjat handacadi” “Won’t you shake my hand, doctor?” Through her otherworldly contacts, the seer felt herself capable of acting as a handacadi. She practised distant healing and prescribed the scriptures she received in trance to patients, who had to wear them in amulets often in combination with certain herbs on the affected parts of the body.[8]

The distance between Hauffe’s Swabian province and Richard’s Lorraine province did not seem as great as the otherworldly worlds of the two visionaries, who were separated by a rift of reformation that was also reflected in their very different supersensory modes of communication. Hauffe operated with her inner language and hierogyphics within a spontanistic framework that foreshadowed the ecriture automatique. Kerner found “much similarities with the languages of the Orient, and this is certainly only because” they were “the remnants of the original language of fallen man”. He was referring here to the Kabbalistic myth of the Adamic Ur- or Natural Language, which he knew through the writings of Jacob Boehme. But also the esoteric alphabets of sigil magic, on which Richard’s idea of writing was based, referred in the last instance to this myth of an uncorrupted original language, here the Enochian language of heaven, in which the Sign and the Signified constitute an evocative unity.

But whereas Richard seemed to communicate with a canonised staff of saints and angels in an alike fixed, mechanical way, i.e. according to Arepo’s set of rules, which was, like Catholic liturgy, beyond earthly comprehension, Hauffe’s apparitions and inner conversations seemed unbound and uncontrolled. Who spoke and when was unpredictable and depended on the mental state.  Richard, on the other hand, employed a series of presumably very precise trance and meditation techniques, which, besides the rosary, included psalmoding and memorising certain suggestive, often homophonic, pairs of words and combinations of syllables. “yeux . cieux” was one such often-recurring mantra. The euphonious association of eye and heaven induced the notion of a seeing through, beyond the physical eye and beyond the Pauline dark mirror, and was presumably capable, with sufficient repetition, of transferring one into a state of prophetic awake sleep. One can thus assume that large parts of the magical texts served such a tested self-hypnotic purpose and were not manifestations of a blunt mania.

Hauffe’s pietistic trance language could draw from a completely different pool of practices of introspection. These had, on the one hand, flowed into the Swabian region via the mystical heretical traditions of Eastern Europe, especially the cabbalistic theosophy of a Jacob Böhme. A second, less well-known but nevertheless enduring influence stemmed from the charismatic religiosity of Huguenot refugees from the French Massif Central. The so-called Camisards, infamous in England as the French Prophets, had stirred up the lowered religiosity of the Enlightenment period in the early eighteenth century with a series of shocking ecstasy techniques that drew on magical practices of early Christian communes, such as miraculous healings, collective exorcism, prophetic trance or speaking in tongues, and unconscious so-called prophetic writing.

These enthusiastic impulses had led to a number of evangelical church and sect foundations in the Reformed camp, thus putting Catholicism under pressure on a broad front, especially in post-Napoleonic France. In addition, there was the erotic Sophian mysticism of many Protestant mystics and sects, which was widely perceived as an imitation of Marian devotion, as well as Swedenborgianism, which by the end of the 18th century had thrown the gates wide open to a Reformed world of spirits. The impact of these spiritualist and evangelical waves on the emergent renouveau catholique has not yet been adequately examined.

The urban French elites were able to compensate for their want of sensual, tangible mysticism with new Masonic orders and several varieties of a socialist utopianism with Catholic messianic leanings. But what was left of the other rural France? And where was a Pierre Richard to be positioned in this era of wondrous romanticism and revolutionary awakening? The German nun Katharina Emmerick had a Clemens Brentano as a chronicler for her stigmatisations, and Friederike Hauffe had a Justinus Kerner at her side for her visionary hauntings, who after her death had expanded his research activities into a widely corresponding parapsychological network and archive for spirit studies.[9]


[1] “The Zoist” was the title of a mesmeristic periodical by the English physician John Elliotson, which was published in London from 1843 to 1856. Elliotson was a follower of the French occultist and mesmerist healer Baron Jules Dupotet de Sennevoy, who for a time also practised extremely successfully in England.

[2] In the Kabbalah, this feminine imagined state of fulfilment and freedom figures as “Shekhinah”; Blake calls it “Jerusalem”.

[3] Cf. Revelation of John, 12:1-4

[4] Cf. Alexander Roob, Alchemie und Mystik. Das Hermetische Museum, Cologne 1996, pp. 401and 419

[5] Cf. ibid, pp. 374 – 393

[6] The Seeress of Prevorst. Revelations about the inner life of the man, and about the intrusion of a spirits’ world into ours”

[7] Cf. Justinus Kerner, Die Seherin von Prevorst, Stuttgart 1846, pp. 210- 211.

[8] Ibid. pp. 142-145

[9] This spiritistic archive was published from 1840-1853 in 5 volumes entitled “Magikon: Archiv für Beobachtungen aus dem Gebiet der Geisterkunde und des magnetischen und magischen Lebens nebst andere Zugaben für Freunde des Innern”. They were preceded by 12 editions of the “Blätter aus Prevorst”.

All photos of the Pierre Richard images: Klaus Stoeber, Strasbourg

Translated with the support of DeepL


related Posts